Feb 19, 2013

Hacker's words against MBA-bashing (or other forms of dismissing each other)

Minnow Among Sharks

I am a a minnow among sharks.  I am an MBA among Hackers.  At hackathons, I am the business guy, the idea guy - or as it turns out - the guy that generally inspires disdain at worst and condescension at best from the developers (especially those who label themselves "full stack").

So, I ask around and try to figure out how I can make myself more useful.  So I pick up some graphic design skills - GIMP (aka poorman's Photoshop), HTML/CSS, some sensibility with typeface, learn to make logos and icons, etc.  Even so, oh how tall and lofty those full stacks appear.

Keep Learning

So, I learn to code.  It is a long process, but turns out it's a fun process, so I am happy to learn.  I learn.  And even as I write procedures and google stackoverflow answers for error messages on my local server, I realize that you never stop being a minnow among sharks.  Here I am learning to write a factorial, and there Drew Houston is building Dropbox.  Holy shark!

Speaking of sharks, Mark Cuban is a colorful entrepreneur, well known for among other things his disdain for MBA's.  He didn't write this, but his views are well-known, as captured in this blog by Walter Frick called "Don't Get an MBA."  It turns out, that there is a whole list of those who dismiss MBA's.  It's a sport.  Even famous business people advise against MBA - like Tom Peters (who was himself an MBA), Jeff Pfeffer (who writes about Power - you should read it).

The shark, mocking the minnow.
Even the uber-Hacker Paul Graham wrote "evidence suggests you'd do better to learn how to hack than get an MBA." (Though to be clear and fair, PG was speaking about startups and what gets you there.)

PG: The Oracle of Silicon Valley says forget the MBA
But, I am an MBA. I am a minnow. I can't change that.  Ironically, as I learn to code, I find one of the best responses to those who play the popular game of MBA-bashing.  It comes from an introduction to SQL from the author of the popular "Learn [programming] the Hard Way" series Zed A. Shaw.  In the section called "Against Indoctrination," Shaw warns against those who thinks technology x is superior to technology y (i.e. SQL vs. NoSQL debate).  Shaw advises:

"The problem with these people is they are trying to indoctrinate you, not educate you."

He goes onto note:

"I want to educate you so that you have the ability to make your own choices and learn anything you want."

Wow.  I want to hug this guy!

So, there you have it.  Keep learning.  Learn for the sake of learning, so that you can be a better person.  So that you can help others.  Don't label each other.  Don't disdain each other.  Instead, learn from each other.  Full stacks, share your stacks with rookies.  MBA's, learn to respect developers.  Developers, be curious about what the non-engineers do before you write them off.  And your personal learning path may involve learning to code, or getting an MBA, or whatever.  Keep an open mind.

And the lion and the lamb shall lie together ...

St. Zed, the patron Saint of Minnows
More reading?

Are you considering a full-time programming course to get a career as a software developer? Or are you considering an MBA program?  Either way, be sure to consider the ROI of your time and money investment.

I am continuing to learn and grow, and shared my story of how I am breaking into tech in this blog post.

4 comments:

Atish said...

A lot of what you wrote makes sense. But i also think that "hacking" or learning to code is just another skill set - something which is valuable but not sufficient in bringing products to life (and mass market and success).
not everybody who knows coding is building great things. and a lot of coders are great at execution but not at knowing what the market needs or where it is going.
to make a successful product often requires a lot of different skills and while coding may be the foundation on which it stands (what do you do if you dont have a product ? :) ), there are a lot of other things which make or break it.

David Kim said...

Absolutely agree that it's simply another skill set. Hence my exhortation not to discount each other but to learn from one another, including taking steps to actually learn a little more about other knowledge fields ... to become more whole and complete as an individual.

Anonymous said...

Dr. King once said, "Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking." In the article he also said, "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society." I love every word in his article The Purpose of Education. As an educator I often think whether my master's degree is worthy in my daily practice, teaching young students in great needs. Dr. King concluded, "we must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education." My two additional years of education has been showing me strategic ways to help my students grow academically and spiritually. I don't know anything about coding, but I believe your MBA will guide you in many ways during your life-long jouney for fulfilling purpose of education. I highly respect that you carry your MBA on your shoulder!

Anonymous said...

Dr. King once said, "Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking." In the article he also said, "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society." I love every word in his article The Purpose of Education. As an educator I often think whether my master's degree is worthy in my daily practice, teaching young students in great needs. Dr. King concluded, "we must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education." My two additional years of education has been showing me strategic ways to help my students grow academically and spiritually. I don't know anything about coding, but I believe your MBA will guide you in many ways during your life-long jouney for fulfilling purpose of education. I highly respect that you carry your MBA on your shoulder!